Diversity, Equality and Trusting God

This is a reprint of an article I wrote last summer which seems particularly timely with this week’s Supreme Court rulings. 

We are so blessed to live in a country founded on the principles of freedom of religion and conscience.  Our founders were living in the time period when some new lessons were really fresh for the church, including the ideas that forcing people to profess Christ in your certain way —  or to live in the manner that you think they ought to live — is NOT the way God works in our lives.  Instead, they were coming to believe that we could live together as a people who differ greatly on religious and moral matters AND YET STILL WORK TO CREATE  A FAIR AND EQUAL society.  In Divine guidance, they even dared to trust that our Creator has given us all “inalienable rights” to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  

The American experiment is the working out of this: Do we really believe the above, and how on earth can we create a vibrant, stable society amid increasingly divergent views on these inalienable rights?  Far from being a weak statement on morals, or a slippery slope, this is a way to trust God (and trust our neighbors’ fate to God)! From the beginning, though, we have had to work this out and apply it to new situations because we as a people have been growing and new situations have presented themselves.  Some evolving situations: Increased religious and cultural diversity.  Equal rights for women.  Repentance of slavery and our Native American genocide. The challenge to racist laws. (All of this work is so clearly not yet done…)

And, today:  The emergence of a visible, organized gay community devoted to being citizens (with contractual obligations to work and family, patriotic desire to serve in the military, and to nurture future generations).  Yes, this is challenging to many who do not understand or approve of our lives.  It is clearly so challenging that many who hold religious-based judgement of our lives do not wish even to TREAT US LIKE FELLOW CITIZENS.  That is, our opponents think that based on religious or moral disagreements, we do not deserve the same basic privileges of citizenship that they do.

We do not seek agreement, or approval, or to convert anyone to anything beyond what their own conscience dictates. We seek the integrity of lives not lived in shame and hiding.  We seek to live our lives in safety and peace, to serve our churches and country, and to utilize the same services, opportunities and infrastructure as our fellow citizens.  If there is a slippery slope to fear, it is the danger that discriminatory acts in the name of serving God will actually be found to be idolatrous attempts at being God.  The American ideals I treasure are the ideals of an experiment that says there is a better way:  Learn to live together in a respectful accord of equal rights and wrestle together in a free marketplace of ideas.  Savor the gifts of true faith and holiness, which are neither coerced nor produced by punishments.

The outcome?  

“By their fruits you shall know them.”

 

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A Living Sacrifice: Biblical Principles for “Self” Care

Are you ready to feel grounded and abundant…
To shift out of daily survival mode?

Do you want to embrace the joy of service and generosity…
To set aside chronic scarcity and anxiety?

Do you seek the skill to draw loving boundaries…
To feel the power of saying “Yes”
rather than the guilt of saying “No”?
Here’s a NEW WORD…
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:1-2
This class  explores the positive spiritual foundation made possible by a life of “self” care. Inspired by the biblical vision in Romans 12, we’ll explore strategies for living sustained lives of generosity, transformation and discernment. Far from being selfish or counter-productive, a lifestyle of “self” care can cultivate capacity for right relations, humility and excellence. Class partners will take away new insights, affirmation and empowerment to make the shifts in thought and action that will sustain them in their Life’s work.
“Time management becomes an expression of peace, wisdom and trust when we dare to place our schedules in service to our discerned and blessed values,” says facilitator Rev. Jacki Belile.Jacki is a certified empowerment coach and American Baptist minister. She has been teaching and coaching about wellness topics like balance, forgiveness, faith transitions, sustainable activism and empowered living since 1994. A certified Energy Leadership coach, she supports lay and clergy leaders called to live sustainable lives of excellence, peace and joy. Jacki’s vision of a “Spirituality of Self-Care” is a concept designed to be widely welcoming and relevant to people of any formal religious affiliation or none. Our texts will include our own stories, as well as themes from Jewish and Christian scriptures.

Registration fee of $85.00 includes one 30-minute coaching session.   Watch for sessions in Chicago in July and August, as well as teleclass offerings.

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Behold the Sun at Midnight

WINTER SOLSTICE

Behold the Sun

at midnight.

Build with stones

On lifeless ground.

Find in decline,

In death’s night,

Creation’s new beginning,

Morning’s youthful night.

The heights reveal

The gods’ eternal word.

The depths guard

The peaceful treasure.

Living in darkness,

Create a Sun.

Weaving in matter,

Know Spirit’s delight.

– Rudolf Steiner

A tattered poem on Winter Solstice tumbles out of my wallet this morning.  I fumble for it each year around this time, and savor it every day.  I could live into it all year, frankly.  This is what I wrote last year:

This Word has spoken to me often from its secure little nest, on the days I pull it out for mantra and on the days it just travels alongside of me.  I have carried it for many years, this Word. On days and nights that seemed long, that seemed without light or path for others, it steadied me with an ancient, creation imperative. The Sun was present and I knew it. It brought delight and rebirth.

I wonder now if I am done with it.

The wondering passes. I am not.  I need this Word. People and places I love need this Word.

This brings the resolve of Rest. It is not a resolve of tirelessly plodding on, like a sturdy oak, mindless of fatigue or surroundings. It’s Presence Possible only in the bearings of that Sun. It’s a body-mind-spirit delight found when I sense the right place, the right time, the right work.

It’s faith.

I am grateful,

and not alone.

Emmanuel.  God with Us!

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A Living Sacrifice: Biblical Principles for “Self” Care

It was on fire, but not consumed...

 

I have the privilege of routinely teaching a local or teleclass version of  A Living Sacrifice: Biblical Principles for “Self” Care.  Lay leaders and clergy from across the country have continued to shape this and bless it greatly through their own stories and wisdom.

After four years of teaching this course, I am still deeply moved by the Word’s promise and by the hope it stirs in attendees.  While the class in rooted in reflections on Romans 12 (especially vs. 1-2), the image of a “living sacrifice” or of a life aflame with love BUT NOT EXTINGUISHED have often led us to meditate on Moses and his encounter with the burning bush in Exodus 3.  Encounter with the Holy, with a new call, with a fiery vision that claimed Moses for work he could not imagine himself to be up for.  And we linger with the feeling of awe passed down through the ages: the attention-getting “I am who I am” is alive with creative Exodusing.  Then and now.  Beyond what and who we can imagine.  Alive with possibility.  A sustained and sustaining message.

This is what my clients and students want for their lives.  And what I want for mine.  Lives ablaze, lived fully and generously with grace.  Given to others and yet replenished by the enlivening Spirit.  Biblical PRINCIPLES help us to make choices which cultivate space for Divine renewal.  If this sounds like something you’d like support for in 2013, we’d love to have you join us on the “living well” journey.  Sign-up for the January 2013 class (Fridays at 8am) here.

 

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The Lord Looks at the HEART

“The only reason we don't open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don't feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else's eyes. ” ― Pema Chödrön
“Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”  — 1 Samuel 16:7

This Good News is on my heart this Advent, as I ponder the grace born anew in our world because of the birth of Jesus Christ.

I’m savoring Gospel stories where we feel his ability to REALLY SEE the potential and need in those he healed.  Beyond the trappings of gender, class, health status, nationality, religion, etc.   I’m sobered by his preaching which warned us of the consequences of thinking too much about the outward appearances of status and respect.

In light of the forgiveness teaching and coaching I do, I would add that sometimes we look at the “outward appearance” of the mistakes we or others make, and can even get trapped there in the Ego’s world of ceaseless judgment.    When I walk with churches and non-profits seeking to grow, I sometimes find this related longing as  people look at the outward appearance of things, rather than – with the Lord’s eyes — looking at the heart of the people involved.  Our outward postures or plans often disguise the longings of the heart.  I think often we all struggle even with seeing OURSELVES with eyes of compassion.

I was blessed recently to hear James Alison’s fresh teaching on the “pantry” (prayer closet).  Our time away in prayer is rewarded with true life transformation precisely because that is where we can really be ourselves with God, while in the world we endlessly relate to Others for the sake of their pleasure or respect.  And we thus concern ourselves with the outward appearances…

Jesus was simply The Human One (“Son of Man”) and revealed to us what we can be in him: people who see the heart of the matter, who are able to increasingly live from the Heart which His Spirit makes new.  People who see others’ hearts and judge with increasing compassion and wisdom (not judgment) the matters and choices of this world.

One recent resource I’ve been treasuring is a book called Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind by Kristen Neff.    Find out more at Neff’s website.   In Christian terms, this path of practicing “self” compassion is, I think, simply the course of unlearning human judgments of self and growing in our capacity to FEEL and INTEGRATE the transforming truth of the grace Jesus brings.

A tough question for many churches: Are we places which nurture this encounter with grace? Or, do we get in the way?

I pray that during this Advent you will find grace breaking into and disrupting the stresses and judgments and pressures of this world in which we live.  It takes TIME to slow down and see with the Lord’s heart.  We just need to be alert and awake to see…

 

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